The Atacama Desert: a huge Chilean expanse
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The Atacama Desert is located in theAntofagastato the north of the Chilenear the border with southern Bolivia and northwest Argentina. It is the second driest area in the world, after the dry valleys of Antarctica. The average altitude is 2,000 m above sea level. It can even reach 6,000 m on the roof of the volcanoes Andean.
The Atacama region extends over more than 100,000 km2 and features grandiose and unusual landscapes such as turquoise and multicoloured lagoons, arid steppes with their procession of volcanoes and southern skies, geysers and oases. It is home to the characteristic fauna of the Andes, including llamas and guanacos, viscachas and vicuñas. Not to be missed are the pre-Inca remains and the charming village of San Pedro de Atacama.
The climate of the world's driest desert
Before you start thinking about your trip, here are some things to keep in mind. The Atacama Desert is the desert the driest in the world. According to climatologists, some areas have never seen a drop of rain. The average annual rainfall is less than 50 millimetres, with 0.1 millimetres in some places. The Tropic of Capricorn is around Antofagasta, which is the driest area.
Two natural barriers are responsible for the lack of precipitation: the coastal mountain range that holds back clouds from the Pacific and the Andean mountain range that holds back clouds from the Amazon basin. High and low pressure and the cold HumboldtIn addition, the use of the sun, which prevents the formation of large clouds, is also an important factor.
Life in the Atacama Desert
The animal species of the Atacama Desert are extremely rare and valuable. They are protected by the WWFWorld Wildlife Fund. This organisation strives to protect the very few species that can survive in some of the most difficult conditions.
You may see flamingos and other hardy birds among these courageous animals. Only a few mice or lizards can survive the harsh conditions of the Atacama Desert.
The desert has very few plant species. Before you leave During its exploration of Mars, a NASA robot detected minute quantities of bacteria.
Nearby, at the edge of the desert, is the Llanos de ChalleIt is well known for its many species of flowers. It is located in the middle of the park and is home to many varieties.
These flowers offer a breathtaking view of the vast expanse, and some species are among the most popular. the rarest in the world.
Shrubs and plants are found on the hillsides along the coast PacificThis is where the humid air is released by the clouds. Cacti are the most common plants found elsewhere.
Two must-sees in the Atacama Desert
The Valley of the Moon
Two natural jewels, two must-haves La Valle de la Luna (valley of the moon), located 5 km southwest of San PedroThis is one of the most striking sites in the region. It features a lunar landscape, steep canyons and ridges, and salty rivers.
You can get there without having to contact an agency. It is easily accessible from the road (direction Calama), then turn left towards Paso Jama/Paso Sico. The site is open every day from 9.30 am to sunset. There are 12 km of track, some with very difficult climbs.
You can stop at many places along the route to admire the beautiful views or visit aold mines. Due to the high temperatures, it is best to leave early in the morning if you are cycling. If you choose to ride, don't miss the sunset, which transforms the colours of the valley.
The Valley of Death
The Valle de la Muerte (the Death Valley in French), also on the outskirts of San Pedro, is another site well worth a visit. The first entrance is just 4 km of the city. It is accessible by bicycle, but not always open. The second entrance is located 3 km further up the mountain. It climbs steeply (if you are on a bike, be warned!).
Continue walking once you have reached the site. You can follow the ridge the canyon, which is criss-crossed with lines of white gypsum. Continue to the massive sand dunes.